3D printing is a form of rapid prototyping.
It is more commonly known as desktop fabrication or additive manufacturing and used in a wide variety of industries for product prototyping & design.
RepRap or desktop 3D printing is a derivative of the mainstream large commercial rapid prototyping process but on a smaller scale. This type of 3D printing is ideal for the home user, hobbyist, small business, educational organisations, creative or designer.
- A digital 3D-model is created in STL file format which can be created using free 3D drawing open source software or more recently by digitizing or scanning objects
- The 3D-model is then loaded into free open source 3D printing software which slices the object into layers and in order to generate GCodes that can be sent to the 3D Printer
- The 3D Printer interprets those GCodes it receives to generate and print the 3D model
- ABS Plastic / Filament – the same plastic used to make Lego blocks it is durable and a stable print material commonly used by many 3D printers today
- PLA Plastic / Filament – a bio degradable plastic derived from corn. Has a lovely high quality finish with an almost translucent quality to it.
- Rubberised or Polyamide Nylon or Glass filled polyamide
- Stereolithography materials (epoxy resins)
- Metals such as silver, titanium, and steel
- Foodstuffs such as chocolate, icing, cheese etc
- Dissolvable filament or Support material – uses as support materials for more complex or highly detailed 3D printing. This material is dissolved in a solution for several hours after printing to remove it from the printed object.
Some materials need to be melted as specific high temperatures before they can be printed known as hot extrusion. However others can be extruded for printing at lower or no temperature known as cold extrusion.
Plus many more new materials are being developed and experimented with hence this list is growing every day!
OK .. so where do I start?
- Buy or build yourself a 3D printer along with printing materials
- Set it up and connect it with the right 3D printing software
- Find, buy or create your own 3D model to load and print
- Press the button and wait for it to print
That’s it? Yes that is all there is to it. Of course this is the quick guide to getting started with 3D printing. More information and advice about these steps in getting started with 3D printing can be found in our other FAQ sections.